Paper Work

Zillertal, Austria
20 Feb 2014
by Dave

If it’s one thing that Austrian’s like more than recycling, it’s paper work. Sure, everything works like clockwork but I suspect that’s because all the normal chaos and spontaneity of life that might make a train run 30 seconds late failed to make it through the AdhocOrSpontaneousActivityRequestForm that first had to be filled out in triplicate before hand.

We’d spent time in Austria and Germany before so we kind of knew the drill. Register your arrival with the police, find work, get health insurance, collect residence card. This time however, our pigeon hole defying lifestyle choice was causing problems.

In previous seasons at least one of us had worked locally. In Germany and Austria, this qualifies you for employer health care and demonstrates your financial means to apply for residency. Our original plan was for Tina to work as a ski instructor and for me to work on my PhD but with a preschooler and a toddler in tow, and a research salary from Australia, neither of us had the time nor the need to work locally. And without work and that all important e-card, our residency application was met with a big fat nein.

This was serious. As an Australian, I could stay visa free in the EU for up to 90 days in any 180. Tina had the right to live and work here thanks to her EU passport, but needed to demonstrate sufficient means within four months. Less than half way into the season and it looked like I had to leave within the fortnight. Our flights were non-changable and we’d signed a lease for 5 months. Sure we could over stay our visas for a few months but that would mean a five year black mark on our passports and end any future travel dreams in Europe.

Leaving wasn’t an option but neither was staying.

Queue three sleepless days and nights of nerve racking internet searching, google translating and international document sending. We had found a possible loophole.

While employment was the typical route to residence, how ever short, there are also options for artists, students, and most importantly, Selbstständiger or self-sufficient people. A certified copy of our mortgage redraw account (the single most important finance product for any travelling family), bank statements, credit cards, travel insurance, a couple hundred euro in fees, and two trips to immigration office later, Tina and the kids were officially Austrian residents. My application was submitted but would take up to 10 days to be processed, during which time I would have to leave the EU.

Oh well, I hear Croatia is pretty cheap and only a 17 hour bus ride away.

Three days prior to my visa expiring, the lady from the immigration office called. “Alles in ordnung!” Sure, Austrians might be efficient but I like to think that our bumbling efforts to speak in German won her over and had the wheels of government turn just that bit quicker.

Hindsight is 20/20. All this could have been avoided if I had have just applied for a 6 month tourist visa before we left Australia. But the problem with learning from experience is, of course, that you get the test before the lesson. So for the sake of anyone following in our footsteps, here’s some advice.

  1. Submit your Meldepflicht (registration of address) with the police or Geminde (local council) within 72 hours of arrival. This is both a legal requirement for Austrians and foreigners alike and saves you from paying the local tourist tax.

  2. If you have the right to work (you’re an EU citizen or spouse of one), get that sorted ASAP. You don’t need residency papers to get a job but need the job for residency.

  3. Once you’ve got a job or offer, find your way to the Bezirk or regional council and apply for residency. For families, you’ll also need to have certified copies of marriage and birth certificates for everyone, as well as police record checks for any non-EU types.

  4. If you can work remotely and you plan to stay less than six months, apply for a long-stay tourist visa. This costs about $100 and can only be applied from your home country so you need to decide this early. For future winter seasons, this is what I’ll be doing for now on.